Big Data is all the buzz these days.

The powerful information Big Data can provide for organizations is significant. The question that many companies face, however, is how to extract the optimal business insights from all this data.

Getting the right data out of Big Data is likely to be the differentiator for companies. Maximizing the usage of the data and finding the right tools to aggregate and assess the data are both absolute necessities in this digitally transformational economy. What's more essential is having the right analytics available that allow companies to use the information in the moment of need.

Big Data basics

There is more data available than ever before in human history. Or, more precisely, more data is being captured than ever before. Why? Three core technologies frequently covered in technology news are converging at a critical time.

The first is the Internet of Things, which comprises the vast network of millions of "things" that are equipped with sensors and software. Wireless technology in those devices is transformational, allowing the "things" to detect, collect, record, and send information to people and computers.

The second is supercomputing, which has the capacity to collect all of that information. Massive databases, declining storage costs and algorithms and analytics programs can make sense of those exabytes of data.

Finally, cloud computing allows for distribution of that information, via dashboards, wireless communication and web-based access to cloud-based programs. Nowadays, when critical data arrives and is sliced and diced by supercomputing tools, the results can be sent in real time to employees who need the information. Information can be delivered to any device, any platform, anywhere and at any time. Multiple people can access the same information simultaneously.

Is Bigger Data better?

A recent article in Harvard Business Review argues that bigger data is clearly not always better. The hype around collecting massive amounts of data because we can is sexy, but not always necessary.
"The key for innovators across industries is that the size of the data isn't the most critical factor - having the right data is," author Maxwell Wessel, general manager for SAP.io, writes. "For innovators the key is figuring out what those critical pieces of data are that drive competitive position. Those will be the pieces of right data that you should seek out fervently."

Wessel suggests that organizations ask three core questions to refine business strategy:
    • What decisions drive waste in your organization? Waste drives opportunity in most industries. When you understand where there are wasted efforts and wasted energy, you have a better idea about where to collect data. For a florist, it might be where inventory most spoils. For a taxi company, it might be learning where taxi drivers are spending their time without fares.

    • What decisions could you make to automate waste? The data collected regarding waste should lead to better decision making - whether it's how much floral inventory to have on hand or where to deploy taxi drivers. This is where supercomputing and cloud computing can make a profound difference by offering suggested solutions.

  • What data would you need to do so? Once you've identified opportunities and made decisions, you need to understand what data you will need to support or refute those decisions.

That data becomes the essential data to collect, analyze and interpret. Whether it's a lot or a little, that newly emergent data, is the Big Data you need.